Monday, February 24, 2014



Akhtar Mohi ud din.( 1928-2001 )

In 1980 , I worked as teller in the bank and was posted at  Lal Chowk, Amira Kadal  branch .  Those were the days when customers would be mostly dealt by tellers   through personalized service. They never felt the need to go to supervisors or the manager  sitting behind .The tellers  were the face of the bank in terms of  polite and personalized service .
One such customer who would  come straight   to me or to my colleague  Roshan Lal Haku   was the  well known kashmiri short story writer  Akhtar Mohi ud din( 1928-2001 ). He was always in hurry and would say something that would make me and my colleague Roshan Lal Haku happy for many days . A dialogue , a  brief story , a kashmiri proverb or some personal anecdote .I would offer him tea while he stood talking . He drank it partly , talked , collected his payment and would leave saying' LASSIV ' ( May you live long ).No other colleague in the  bank knew who he was . I always  felt that he was  a sincere  and  open hearted  person . 

“ We actually belong to village Frisal , Pulwama . My father married in  the city and shifted to Batmaloo. I spent my childhood and youth in Batmaloo. I studied in Islamia school , Maisuma , National school and S P college.  ”

“ How can I repay the debt to Som Nath Zutshi’s wife, a goddess and for me , a real  sister in need . Do you know  she single handedly  did all  the post delivery care of my wife once. Do you understand the word 'Phott' in Kashmiri ? It means post delivery care .Where in this life can this debt be repaid?  ”

“ I remain ever grateful to Prof. Jay Lal Kaul for encouraging me to write in Kashmiri . In fact when I started writing , he arranged a reading session in S P college for me and treated me like a great writer . From him  , I also learnt a lot  . A  gem of a person who has a great command over English and Kashmiri .  ”

“ Amongst friends , Shamim Ahmed Shamim always wanted me to write in Urdu . He was very happy when my Urdu story  was published in  English translation  in New York Herald Tribune and also awarded second prize in this short story competition. Shamim is  a reliable friend who thinks much ahead of his time. He is very sharp. You have just to tell him the contours of any issue, he will come back to you with all the details .And amongst politicians , late Sadiq  Sahib was a real connoisseur of literature .  ”

“ I regard Krishen Chander as a great writer .His stories and style is definitely a class apart. But when it comes to writing stories based on Kashmir , he has not done justice. He only talks about the hills , valleys , beautiful women and romance . He never lived in Kashmiri society . He never wrote on issues connected with Kashmiri society  as such .We have  similar issues and social problems   that one comes across  in various other  societies in northern or southern parts of the country .”

“ Is Shambu Nath  ji  ( Late S N Kaul from Bandipora Kashmir who was a saintly officer in the bank ) fine ?  Convey my Namsakar  to him. I am in a hurry this time else would have gone up to meet him “

So would Akhtar Mohi ud din say to us . 

Even after my transfer and promotion from Lal chowk branch , I met  Akhtar Mohi ud din in some functions . I saw him  three  or four times last being possibly in 1988. Thereafter , the tragic events in the Kashmir valley made things altogether different. We had to  leave Kashmir  due to the armed militancy. The  struggle for  survival in the heat and dust of the plains of the country put  art and iterature into non priority zone for sometime .  And then one day in 2001, when I was posted in Amritsar  city , I came to know  about   his death from a Newspaper . Kashmiri language shall not get another crafty story writer like  Akhtar Mohi ud din .

I had  been reading his short stories since my college days  . I always liked his narration and realistic representation of situations and characters  .His stories probably  evolved from his own surroundings. These stories   carry  the feel  and throb of the living style  of    ordinary people in Kashmiri society     . Read him in original Kashmiri or translation , he leaves an impression. 
My friend Jaswant Singh Saggu from Jalandhar is a great fan of Akhtar Mohi ud din’s short stories. Once he discussed “THE MAD WORD  ” a superb story of Akhtar Mohi ud din which he had read in English translation .I suggested him to read stories like 'Daryaayi Hund Yezaar ( Red silk  salwar )  and ' Dand Vazun ' available in  English translation . 

 Sathh Sangar ( seven hill tops ) and Sonzal ( Rainbow ) are two  books that contain most of his well known short  stories published in 1955 and 1958 respectively . Sath Sangar won him the prestigious Sahitya Academy award in 1958 .

He was amongst the founders of Progressive Writers Association in Kashmir. His experimentation with new style and form is visible in some  stories lke 'Lassu Valdi Mahmood '( Lassu son of Mahmood ) ,  'Aadam Chhu Ajeeb Zaat' ( Man is a strange creature ) and 'Gaahe Taaf ta Gaahe shuhul'  ( Sometimes sunshine and sometimes Shade ). Aadam chhu Ajeeb Zaat was also rewritten as a play for Radio Kashmir .

' Doad Dhag '( Sorrow and pain ) written in 1957, was his First attempt to write a Kashmiri Novel. Many critics call it a love and lust  story woven essentially  around three characters Fatima  , Raja  and Abdul Gani ,  a Munshi with Shamas ud din  A Namda trader .But Prof .Jay Lal Kaul clarifies :-
“ This novel is a painful  reflection of the society that we live in. Reading it makes you  together sad and happy apart from sharpening your social consciousness ” 

Akhtar Mohi ud din wrote another Kashmiri novel 'Zuvv Ta Zolaan ' which was also well received in Kashmir’s literary circles .

Some time back, MIRAAS , a literary  magazine published in English from  New Delhi , carried  Akhtar Mohi ud din’s short  story “THE   HOURI OF PARADISE ” ably translated into English   by Prof . Neerja Mattoo  . I have been reading Prof. Mattoo’s translations and I salute her for being apt  and profoundly to the point .  Like  Prof. Jay Lal kaul ,her language is also simple and direct .

( Avtar Mota  )

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